For the 12th consecutive year, the students, staff and families at Edgewood Highland Elementary School paid tribute to their veterans in their annual Veteran's Day ceremony, held last Friday.
Carolyn Taylor, instructional assistant at the school, organized the assembly again this year, focusing on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. She, along with all of the participants in the ceremony, was dressed in authentic Civil War period costume, hand-sewn by Civil War re-enactors Meghan Logsden and Dennis Hobert.
Logsden, Hobert and Benjamin Taylor were all special guests at the ceremony, re-enactors of the time period.
"Winston Churchill said, 'Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,'" said Taylor in her opening remarks.
Taylor explained that over the summer, she spent four days at the re-enactment of the Battle of the 2nd Manassas in Virginia along with the 12th Georgia Company G unit, which provided her with the inspiration for this year's ceremony.
"We will not celebrate the War Between the States today, instead, we will recognize the legacy of the sacrifices, the battles and the struggles our nation endured for four long years from 1861 to 1865, as more lives were lost here on American soil than we have lost anywhere else in the world, in all the wars our nation has fought, combined," Taylor said.
She explained to the students, staff and community members present that both Rhode Island and Cranston were deeply involved in the Civil War. Cranston folklore says that Furnace Hill Brook [near Phenix Avenue] made cannonballs for the Union troops, and that the two cannons still at the Rhode Island State House today were used in the Civil War as well.
"Rhode Island was the first Union state to send troops in response to President Lincoln's request for help. He was looking for 75,000 troops. Rhode Island furnished 25,236 fighting men, of whom 1,685 died. On the home front, Rhode Island, along with the other northern states, used its industrial capacity to supply the Union Army with the materials it needed to win the war,” Taylor said. “The United States Naval Academy even moved to Rhode Island temporarily during the war.”
The ceremony also featured flags from the time period of the Civil War, including the 34-star Union Flag and the first national flag of the original seven states of the Confederacy. Several sixth grade students were flag bearers during the ceremony, including Dominic Casale, holding the Union flag, Patrick Gibb holding the Confederate flag and Matthew Perry holding the current United States flag. During the ceremony, a digital slideshow was presented for the guests, showing prominent people and places that were notable during the Civil War.
The group rose for the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the assembly, and throughout the event patriotic music was played. The staff and students had been asked to submit the names of veterans that they knew for recognition during the show, and several veterans were present at the assembly. Each veteran was given a special certificate, honoring them for their service.
Principal Marlene Gamba tried to make a connection for her students between the events of the past and their actions in the present.
"Do your work and be good students, listen in your social studies classes. This is why we fight for our freedom and this is why we have Monday off," she said.
Taylor ended the event with words from Sam Watkins of the 1st Tennessee Infantry, Company H.
"America has no north, no south, no east, no west. The sun rises over the hills and sets over the mountains. The compass just points up and down, and we can laugh now at the absurd notion of there being a north and a south. We are one and undivided."